Reunification of families policy
Dear Sir, — With reference to the unfair criticism of our hardworking and principled MP, Fiona Bruce, in recent letters pages, and with regard to the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, may I clarify that this has not changed Government policy on family reunion for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Under Conservative-led governments, the UK has granted refugee protection or other forms of leave to 41,000 children since 2010 and to over 7,500 in the last year alone.
Family reunification of vulnerable children continues to remain a Government priority. — Yours faithfully,
MRS A JONES
In a blog on its web site, the home office says that in 2018, the UK had the third highest intake of all asylum claims from unaccompanied children in the EU, receiving 15% of all claims from unaccompanied children across Europe. It also quotes the figures above. The blog said: “We remain absolutely committed to seeking a reciprocal agreement with the EU for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and we do not require the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to achieve this. The purpose of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is to put the withdrawal agreement, which the Government has agreed with the EU, into law. It is not about our future relationship with the EU. An agreement on family reunion for unaccompanied children is a matter for negotiations with the EU and isn’t solely in the gift of the UK. That is why the home secretary wrote to the European Commission on 22nd October to commence negotiation on this issue.”
However, Lord Alf Dubs, who has been fighting for improved protections for child refugees travelling alone since 2016, said it was “disgraceful” to use child refugees as a “bartering chip” with the EU. He called the move to drop the family union rights from the withdrawal legislation as a “betrayal of Britain’s humanitarian position”.
Beth Gardiner Smith, head of campaign group Safe Passage said: “The Government (has promised) it will do everything it can to keep refugee family reunion open after Brexit. The Government must keep its word to unaccompanied children, to Parliament and to people across the country who believe that Britain should do its bit to help refugees reunite with family here in Britain. We will be watching very closely to make sure that the right to reunite with family isn’t quietly watered down by this Government. In addition, Government ministers have indicated they will bring forward legal protections in an Immigration Bill later this year, and we will be holding them to this commitment.”